As Nigeria joins other nations of the world in marking World AIDS day today, a medical expert, Professor Philips Olatunji, had warned of increasing cases of HIV in adults despite HIV prevention initiative, saying people remain lackadaisical in their attitude to the virus.
Professor Olatunji, Head of Haematology and Blood Transfusion Services, Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital, Sagamu stated that the change in attitude of Nigerians to HIV was not commensurate with efforts put into Information, Communication and Behavioural efforts put into HIV control.
According to him, while on the one hand it is good that those that have the infection and under treatment are doing well, it has made people to feel that change in attitude or way of life is less important.
Olatunji, a former project coordinator for IHVN/OOU action site, Sagamu, stated that “people have not taken time to change their way of life and once that does not happen, transmission will not be controlled.”
The expert added that while treatment for pregnant women living with HIV can prevent their offspring having HIV, where compliance is poor or the baby after birth did not receive prophylactic ARV, the virus will continue to spread.
According to him, “It is true that discrimination and stigmatisation is bad, but once we start to encourage everyone under treatment to look normal, saying it is not a social disease, everybody begins to feel comfortable.
“All these the civil society may not agree with but whether they agree with it or not, the result of not really holding people responsible for their action is what we are seeing.
“Civil society can give something they do not like a bad name like female circumcision is called female genital mutilation, but prostitution becomes commercial sex work because they want to give it a good name and make everybody comfortable with it.”
Olatunji expressed concern that recession and dwindling resources from funding partners for HIV services in Nigeria may further worsen the spread of the virus.
According to him, “in the days when the programme was good, we used to have people in the community who were monitoring those patients to ensure they adhere to treatment. All that stopped after the withdrawal of the PEPFER fund.
“So now that funding is no more for this, it becomes an issue. Some of us are not surprised that this is happening. What is been spent now on treatment and control is less than a tenth of what we were using in 2010 because funding from the US government has dwindled.”